This review contains spoilers.
1.10 The Price Of Hope
First up, let’s recap this week’s action. Medusa can now turn men into stone, but that’s not stopping her best friends going looking for her.
Hercules wants to find Medusa, hoping that she can be cured of her malady, even though no cure exists, unless there’s something in Pandora’s Box that might help… because it was so successful when it was first opened.
Despite The Oracle’s protestations, she hands over the box and off the boys go to find Daedalus, the inventor. He’s an irritable fellow and the perfect man to discover the truth behind Pandora’s Box and the price that must be paid for the life of Medusa.
Hercules sets out to rescue Medusa, despite thinking there is no cure, and Pythagoras and Jason set out to rescue him by wandering through a forest and encountering a bunch of hunters who really quite like hunting humans before escaping, with Jason having been injured.
Having been watched for some time by a mysterious archer, the saviour finally turns up just in time to save Jason and Pythagoras. She’s Atalanta and she’s pretty good with a bow and arrow, as well as with mystical healing potions. Just what Jason needs.
So, it’s off from the forest to some caves, as it wouldn’t be Atlantis without both. There’s the hint of a seafront, though we don’t really see much of that before Medusa and Hercules are reunited, even though they can never be together.
Hercules is lied to again, we discover that Jason is immune to Medusa’s power and Medusa has become a wonderfully tragic figure. Next week, however, sees something quite dangerous that results in Jason being naked…
This week’s character actors were Jason Watkins, slimy and threatening as he ever was in Being Human, and Robert Lindsay. Finally, onscreen with Lindsay, Robert Emms gets some screen-time with a character that matches the supposed intellect of Pythagoras. Emms turns in an emotional performance as he lies to protect Hercules, and Addy swings between determined and disillusioned. Once more, Jack Donnelly, whose acting has been, very much like the series, variable, manages to demonstrate that, given the right dialogue, he can act well, though – again, as with the series – moments like this are brief.
There was silliness, involving Pythagoras walking in on Hercules and Jason in armpit sniffing and a bar brawl that was just farcical, despite a moment of threatening malice from Watkins. We were given excrement, a fall that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a cartoon and the comical nonsense that is the life of Hercules. Too much of the humour still fell flat, particularly the whole bar fight.
Whilst Juliet Stevenson had her customary couple of lines, there was a distinct lack of royalty again. It’s almost as if the political maneuvering of Pasiphae and Ariadne and the eventual fall of Minos have been cast aside in preference of extended scenes of running through a forest to the sound of drums.
We may not have had Pasiphae or Ariadne, but we did have another strong female with Nora-Jane Noone’s turn as Atalanta being a fine addition to the cast, even if it may only be for this one episode. The other strong female character, Medusa, sees Jemima Rooper in the shadows this week, but her performance bristled with emotion, as seen in that beautifully understated exchange with Addy.
Guest stars… it all comes down to guest stars. Atlantis doesn’t seem to have a problem recruiting incredibly talented actors to fill the roles, yet the core actors are under-served by the dialogue they are given and – often with the exception of Addy and, from time to time, Emms – struggle to breathe real life into the script. The guest stars make their lines sound better than they are, and it’s this gulf of talent that really shows how, more often than not, lacklustre Donnelly’s performance is. It’s not that he isn’t a good actor, rather just that he just doesn’t seem comfortable in the role.
To sum up then, this week’s Atlantis wasn’t bad. That’s as good as it gets. Pacing is still an issue, with an interesting start and an interesting end, but a ‘loose’ middle that took too long to get going. Daedalus was an interesting character in the first third of the story, Atalanta was interesting in the second third and Medusa was interesting in the last, but this compartmentalisation of characters really made it feel like a microwaveable dinner – it sounds nice and looks good, but when it’s ready, it’s simply disappointing.
Read Dave’s review of the previous episode, Pandora’s Box, here.
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